Scottish Third Edition

By the late 1890s, the Ordnance Survey had produced two complete series of maps of Scotland but the increasingly rapid pace of change and development meant that revising them was now a never-ending task. The main cause of this change was the growth of the railways. From being little more than a good idea in 1830, the network covered over 18,000 miles by the end of the century, enabling the spread of goods, people and ideas and changing the character of every place it touched. Edinburgh and London were connected by direct rail services as early as 1848, enabling the journey to be completed in hours rather than days. The late 19th-century was without doubt the age of the railway, and the Scottish Third Edition is the definitive record of its glory years.

Another, quieter, technological revolution was also taking place at this time: the development of colour printing. Information could now be displayed in more subtle and varied ways, and at a reasonable cost. The government, the military and, increasingly, the public were demanding that the map-makers responded to this. After a new survey in the early 1890s, the Scottish Third Edition (in colour) was published from 1903. This captured both the variety of the natural landscape and the human influence of Scotland’s late-Victorian heyday in delicate shades of sepia, blue, ochre, as well as green: a colour now taken for granted on maps but which had been dispensed with on most of the earlier Revised New Series maps produced south of the border on the grounds of cost.

The Scottish Third Edition is an immaculate record of a vibrant society on the threshold of a still greater period of development and urbanisation. It records countless reminders of the past, many of which were about to be swept away for good. For local historians, this is the final record of Scotland before the changes brought by the motor car. If your interest is genealogical, the series coincides with the 1901 Census, showing the landscape your ancestors inhabited. Whatever your reason for being interested in your area’s past, prepared to be entranced by these maps – enlarged and combined to match the present-day OS Landrangers, they will reveal secrets of a familiar landscape you never knew existed.